America to Trinidad: Marine reunited with childhood mentor
By Sgt. Olivia McDonald, Marine Corps Forces South
While many young adults can easily identify that one coach or teacher who had the biggest impact on them growing up, not all stories are the same. One U.S. Marine had the opportunity to reconnect with, and give a little something back to, his high school mentor while serving overseas.
As a civil affairs specialist with 4th Civil Affairs Group, Sgt. Mike Meehan has the privilege of organizing and overseeing community relations programs between the Marine Corps and local nationals. While in Trinidad and Tobago for Phase II of Exercise Tradewinds 2017, Meehan’s visit to the Mucurapo West Secondary School in Port-of-Spain was more personal than most.
“When they told me I was going to Trinidad, I thought ‘Wow, life’s funny like that,’” Meehan said as he recalled the moment he realized the Marine Corps was sending him on an international exercise just down the street from where his old soccer coach now works.
Anthony Creece, a teacher at the Mucurapo West Secondary School and native Trinidadian, lived in the United States for years while he went to school and later became a high school soccer coach and teacher at Notre Dame High School in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. This is where he first met Meehan and later became his admired mentor.
“It’s a funny story,” Creece said. "My first impression of Mike was that he was full of energy and very mischievous, always up for a joke or a prank."
Meehan, admitting to his mischievous younger years, says the first time the two met was actually in the in-school suspension room in middle school. That is also when he learned Creece was the soccer coach.
“I told him I played, but I was kind of a wild man on the field back then,” Meehan said. “Before he was my coach I was more interested in causing trouble and getting into fights. He kind of changed that.”
Creece would stop by the gym and Meehan would put on his best moves hoping to get looked at for the next year. They both said the mentorship developed quickly after that.
“It was awesome to have someone to go talk to, especially at school where I didn’t really have a focus on anything until I met him,” Meehan said. “He got me playing soccer more seriously.”
Whether it was trouble in or out of school, Creece was someone the boys on the team could always look to for advice. He was the mentor Meehan needed to help harness all that youthful energy and focus it on something constructive.
Despite the pleas of other faculty members at the school, Creece nominated Meehan as the captain of the team his junior year: a responsibility he was not used to and many doubted he could perform, even himself.
“I guess he was trying to show me what he saw in me and I didn’t see in myself," said Meehan. "Now as I grow up I always try to have that leadership mentality. Going into the Marine Corps, it’s the same thing. It’s one big brotherhood, sisterhood, one big sports team. That’s how I’ve always looked at it. And he helped me become a better leader.”
When not on active duty for the reserves, Meehan is an expecting father and is a coach himself.
“One of the greatest compliments that I ever heard was another teacher at the school telling me, a year or so ago, that Mike’s demeanor while coaching is similar to how I did things," Creece said. "And to me that is one of the greatest compliments; imitation is one of the best forms of flattery. I can’t say how proud I am that he has gone on and is representing his country and doing things at home and abroad.”
Meehan and the other Marines in support of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South were participating in Tradewinds, an annual combined exercise aimed to increase Caribbean security by enhancing the collective ability of the 20 participating nations to strengthen relationships, build partner nation capacity and conduct subject matter expert exchanges in security-related operations. Militaries from all over the Caribbean, Europe and the Americas were focused on improving their capabilities in counter transnational organized crime and terrorism, and humanitarian and disaster relief operations.
The Marines reached out to the Mucurapo West Secondary School as well as other schools in the area to connect with the communities and help improve the learning environment of the younger generation.
“I feel like he has always wanted me to do positive things; he has always been someone who has created a positive impact in people’s lives, so I do owe him the fact that I want to be like him,” Meehan said. “I feel like I owe him to pass on the lessons he has taught me to future kids.”
Giving back is always a great feeling, and Meehan says it is even more special that he could also contribute to Creece’s efforts in the community that is so different from where he grew up.
“It just shows that life is funny," said Creece. "I left the United States five, almost six years ago. We keep in touch still, but it is great to see him here. It is great to see he has become a man. I’d like to feel I contributed to that.”